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There are two approaches for file type icons—the official and non-offical versions. If an app chooses the official icon (E.g. latest version of Microsoft Word icon for .doc files) then the icons will not be internally consistent. If the app uses all non-official icons they all tend to look a little like knock-off brands but are internally consistent.

Another consideration, is the Adobe PDF icon the official one even though OSX and Windows have their own pdf readers?

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In short, "non-official" icons.

From my experience as a user, the "non-official" approach is most common (examples: Google Drive, OneDrive). In addition to that, there are a number of issues with the "official" approach, which is solved by using the "non-official" approach:

  • Lack of internal consistency, as you mention
  • Copyright issues
  • Have to keep up with the applications ever-changing icons
  • And what to do about generic files, such as JPEGs, AVIs, TXT?

The big benefit of the "official" approach is that the user might recognize a file type faster, but I don't think that outweighs the problems.

  • I think I agree with you. Thanks for the confirmation. Google Drive is a good example. – tylertrotter Apr 12 at 13:09

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